Brexit and Wildlife Legislation

By Rob on the 20th March, 2017

Today it has been announced that Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on the 29th March starting the process to leave the EU, what does this mean for our wildlife protection?

EU Flag

More than 1,100 of our environmental laws, including those protecting habitats and species, were made at European level and there is an obvious question mark over what will happen to these laws after the UK leaves the EU.

Last October the government announced that it will convert all existing EU laws, including environmental regulations and directives concerning wildlife protection, into UK and devolved law by a Great Repeal Bill. The Prime Minister has stated that there will then be an opportunity to scrutinise, amend, repeal or improve any aspect of transposed EU law.

The recently published White Paper, ‘The United Kingdom’s exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union’, sets out the government’s vision post Brexit. Although the white paper doesn’t give information on any specific policies, it confirmed that the Great Repeal Bill will be used to retain existing environmental laws and regulations, and restates a commitment to ensure ‘…we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it’.

There are concerns that simply transposing EU environmental laws into UK law could result in these becoming so-called “zombie” laws, which are no longer updated, are unenforced by the European Commission and European Court of Justice, and could be weakened over time without proper scrutiny by parliament.

The cross party parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) recently published a report recommending that a new Environmental Protection Act should be passed before Brexit to ensure that there is no watering down of environmental protection. Certainly, public opinion appears to be on the side of maintaining wildlife protection; a recent poll found that more than 80% of UK citizens surveyed want laws protecting wildlife to remain as strong as the current protection or be made tougher after Brexit, with only 4% favouring reduced wildlife protection.

Certainly, there are interesting, and potentially challenging times ahead for wildlife in the UK. We will of course be keeping our clients updated about any changes to environmental laws and regulations as and when these occur.



Robert Dunn

Robert has a first class degree in Biological Sciences with Environmental Resources from the University of Warwick and an MSc in Environmental Biology from Swansea University. He worked in the private, public and charitable sectors before founding Smart Ecology and has extensive experience in protected species surveys and Preliminary Ecological Appraisals/Phase 1 Habitat surveys. Robert is an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (ACIEEM) and holds survey licences for bats, hazel dormice and great crested newts. He is also an experienced botanist skilled in carrying out botanical surveys including National Vegetation Classification (NVC) assessments.